Wildfire scorches 1,200 acres of Everglades; will there be more if coronavirus restrictions lift?

Wildfire scorches 1,200 acres of Everglades; will there be more if coronavirus restrictions lift?

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A wildfire fire sparked by mistake and fed by drought burned more than 1,200 acres in South Florida’s Everglades and continues to smolder despite pockets of drenching rain over the weekend.

The so-called Sunday Afternoon fire that has seared sawgrass prairie, melaleuca and Australian Pine in Everglades National Park began April 19 and was 70 percent contained as of Monday.

Apr 16, 2020; Homestead, Florida, USA; The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center entrance at Everglades National Park remains closed through mid-May due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY NETWORK ORG XMIT: USATSI-426594 ORIG FILE ID:  20200416_jcd_zq5_039.JPG

Fires on adjacent state-owned land were mostly extinguished, but concerns are mounting that relaxed coronavirus orders could mean more unintended ignitions with 65 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought.

“Now that things are beginning to open up a little bit, people will probably start going out and there’s a greater chance of something happening that could start a fire,” said Scott Peterich, a Florida Forest Service wildfire mitigation specialist in Palm Beach County. “It’s been so dry, but all the parks are closed so you didn’t have anyone in them.”

More:US reopening: Which states have relaxed restrictions? Find out what your state is doing

There were 26 active wildfires on state land Monday.

The cause of the Sunday Afternoon fire is still under investigation, but “human influence is likely,” according to a press release from Everglades National Park.

While a cold front drenched Glades County with up to two inches of rain Sunday and thrashed Palm Beach County with hail, wind and lingering showers, National Weather Service meteorologists said central and areas of South Florida received less rain, providing fields of wildfire fuel — dried up underbrush and dehydrating flora.

A fire watch was issued Monday for areas of Hendry, Collier and Monroe counties triggered by the parched ground, plummeting relative humidity levels and northerly winds. The fire watch could be continued into Tuesday.

“The drier air and lower relative humidity leads to elevated fire weather because it’s helping further dry out those fuels,” said meteorologist Larry Kelly. “It all depends on where the rain falls.”

March was the driest on record for the 16-county region managed by the South Florida Water Management District. This month, an average of about 1.5 inches of rain has fallen through Friday, which is 73 percent of what’s normal for that time period. Sunday’s rains will undoubtedly hike that for some areas.

The spot where the Sunday Afternoon fire spread west of Miami and south of the Tamiami Trail has been so dry that water has drained to below ground level. Historically water would have remained above or at the surface to sustain an ecosystem that evolved before flood control efforts diverted water from its natural southerly flow out of Lake Okeechobee.

Scientists at the water management district and Everglades Foundation have warned the dry conditions could mean the loss of centuries-old peat soil — a building block for life in the Everglades — to either fire or desiccation.

“The Everglades is known for having a corrugated landscape and when you dry out the marshes, they flatten out and you lose habitat,” said Everglades Foundation ecologist and Communications Director Steve Davis in an interview earlier this month. “It’s times like these that really illustrate the need for Everglades restoration.”

A planned reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee will hold water that could be used to rehydrate the Everglades during unusually dry periods. The reservoir is scheduled to be completed in 2028.

To help fight the Sunday Afternoon fire, the water management district modified the water flow in that area by installing five temporary pumps to pull water from a nearby canal and put it in Everglades National Park.

That pumping ended Monday.

“As people go out and about, we are just asking that they please exercise caution,” Peterich said.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/28/everglades-wildfires-if-coronavirus-restrictions-lift/3030271001/

News Related


Trump’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment is premature and deadly. We have not defeated COVID.

Desperate for crowds and adoration, Trump has put his most fervent supporters at risk of getting a deadly disease. Future historians will be astonished. Read more »

NFLPA president JC Tretter says NFL is putting season, players at risk with its coronavirus approach

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said Tuesday the NFL is putting the 2020 season at risk with its coronavirus approach, calling on the league to better “prioritize player safety.” “Like many other... Read more »

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he tested positive for the coronavirus

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro says he has tested positive for COVID-19 after months of downplaying the virus’ severity. Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and... Read more »

Venice Film Festival forges ahead amid COVID-19 pandemic with reduced lineup

The show will go on for the Venice Film Festival in September, but with a few modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers said Tuesday that they are pushing forward with plans for... Read more »

Amtrak offers buy-one, get-one promotion on its sleeper trains amid COVID-19 — with a catch

Amtrak wants you to have sweet dreams the next time you travel — so much so that it’s sweetening the deal on its sleeper “roomettes.” The rail service is offering a buy-one-get-one-free discount... Read more »

Florida teen treated with hydroxychloroquine at home before dying of COVID-19, report says

FORT MEYERS, Fla. – The family of a 17-year-old Florida girl who died last month from COVID-19 treated her symptoms at home for nearly a week before taking her to a hospital, a... Read more »

Mookie Betts worried MLB coronavirus testing woes could prevent him from ever playing for Dodgers

During nearly four months away from the game, Mookie Betts said he “stayed away from baseball to keep myself sane.” It’s not hard to understand why. The 2018 American League Most Valuable Player... Read more »

Tom Hanks doesn’t get ‘how common sense has somehow been put into question’ with coronavirus

Read more »

Can Gov. DeSantis force Florida schools to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic? Some school leaders seem doubtful.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — As concern about the state order spread online, some school leaders said: Not so fast. As Florida educators puzzle over how to start the new academic year, Gov. Ron... Read more »

Texas surpasses 200,000 coronavirus cases after 4th of July holiday weekend

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas reached 200,000 total COVID-19 cases Monday, just 17 days after crossing the 100,000 threshold, a figure that took the state nearly four months to hit. The grim milestone came... Read more »